Whoever gets there first, wins.

That’s the way life works.

You get there first, you get the best ticket for Air Supply. What?

You get there first, you get the early worm, birdie.

You get there first, you get the first punt of the pigeon in Market Square.

You get there first, you get to work on saving the trapped victim.

Except not in Pittsburgh and this is all news to me and I’m still trying to wrap my brain around this.

If I’m understanding this correctly and I know you’ll tell me if I’ve got this wrong … in Pittsburgh, due to a union contract, firefighters are not to perform “rescues.” Instead, since 1977, paramedics have performed them. Rescues could be a rescuing a person trapped in an elevator or in a pile of rubble, or rescuing a person trapped in a car or in a well or swift-moving flood waters.  Rescuing victims of a bridge collapse. Or rescuing the blogger cowering in the alley surrounded by a slowly advancing throng of angry pigeons holding ninja stars.

Here’s the problem for us, the potential rescuees waiting for our rescuers: it takes firefighters only between four to eight minutes to arrive on scene, with a majority of responses happening closer to the four-minute mark. The last available statistics for paramedics in Pittsburgh show that it took them an average of 17 minutes to respond to a call.

The paramedics are stretched thin going from call to call while the firefighters have a lot of downtime between calls.

And now the paramedics have rejected a new contract and authorized a strike because the City wishes to move rescue operations, as required by Act 47, to the firefighters to free up the paramedics to focus on medical calls.

Paramedics averaged 56,500 calls annually over the past four years, and the city is seeking help more often from medical teams in neighboring communities, said Joanna Doven, spokeswoman for Mayor Luke Ravenstahl.

Pittsburgh requested outside assistance 47 times in 2010; 124 times in 2011; and 127 times so far this year, she said.

Both the ICA and the city’s Act 47 financial-recovery team have recommended that the city move rescue operations to the fire department. City officials have been trying to do so since 2010, Huss said.

I’m so confused, because I thought that’s what firefighters were for. RESCUES. I thought the firefighters rescued and then the paramedics treated after the rescue, but that’s not how it works in Pittsburgh. The paramedics rescue and then triage and THEN treat, and the firefighters don’t step in unless something or someone has burst into flames, I guess. Or they sit around waiting for something to burst into flames.

The EMT union claims that the reason they are rejecting the contract is because of our safety. Firefighters aren’t trained well enough to rescue us, so it’s all about our safety and it’s all about you and me and it’s not at all about their jobs or overtime pay.

Let’s get a few things straight. I love paramedics and I know paramedics and I want them to have job security and paychecks and insurance. And please, if I’m in an accident, save me, paramedics. But if I’m stuck in an elevator I do not give a rat’s ass if it is a paramedic or a firefighter who comes to my aid. I care that they get there fast.

If a raging flood river is threatening to sweep away my car with my children in it, I don’t give a crap about anyone’s overtime pay. I care that my rescuer gets there lickety split to save me and my family.

I’m not saying I want to hurt the paramedics’ jobs. I’m saying I don’t understand why Pittsburgh can’t do this like most of the country does.

Why such the division between the two units?

Aren’t there enough medical calls to go around even if you let the firefighters do rescues? Would it be such a terrible thing to have PARTNERS in your rescue efforts for the good of the people you are serving and who you want to save?

If there are people trapped in cars, aren’t the firefighters already going to the scene along with the EMTs? So why not let them do the rescue and let the EMTs worry about the medical side of things? Doesn’t that just make sense?

Can’t the city form an elite team of people trained in both firefighting and emergency response medicine who will respond in eight minutes or less to the hardest, most complex of rescues while the rest of the EMTs and firefighters are trained in standard rescues? Wouldn’t it have been great to call that team to the Washington Boulevard flood tragedy? Like firefighting SWAT doctors?

And can’t the firefighters and EMTs trained in standard rescues then share rescue duties? So if the firefighters are busy, the EMTs head to the rescue. Or if the EMTs can’t get there for another 17 minutes, we send the firefighters who can get there in four because right now they’re sitting in the firehouse waiting for something to burst into flames? And if the rescue becomes more complex, they call on the elite team to step in and help?

If a building falls, can’t they all come and work together to save us?

Am I a stupid simpleton who has over-simplified a truly complex problem?


But it felt good to get it off my chest.

But P.S. Seriously, whoever gets there first, save me from the pigeons. I think I heard tiny nunchucks being bandied about and several pigeons are wearing wife-beaters and I think one of them is doing that Gangnam Style dance.

Kill that one first.


  1. Jenny
    October 10, 2012 2:50 pm

    Truly, I don’t see how an EMT could not feel the same way you (& I) do about this if we were speaking of a rescue of one of THEIR own family members. Wouldn’t THEY want them rescued out of harm’s way before it was too late?

  2. Bram R
    October 10, 2012 2:55 pm

    Amalgamated Hawks, Owls, Possums, Weasels and Snakes of Western Pennsylvania Local Union 645 (AHOPWS-645) handles the pigeon rescues. They will get there when they get there.

    Coverage of union contract talks always seem lacking. There’s a lot of motivation and solidarity for either staying silent or spewing the company line on all sides (including management), and I don’t doubt this is a lot more complicated than we’re hearing. But I also don’t doubt that as it gets more “complex”, it gets further afield from ordinary straightforward concerns.

    I bet the EMT’s feel they get shafted by comparison to police and firefighters all the time. More clout, more notoriety, more authority, doper uniforms.

  3. Rob Carr
    October 10, 2012 3:30 pm

    Ginny, you don’t understand how it works.

    First, paramedics triage, treat WHILE THE RESCUE IS GOING ON and rescue. I’ve been in cars sticking my hand down the patient’s throat to do a digital intubation so the patient could breathe while the Rescue Truck paramedics (who know what I’m doing) work around me with the O-Ring cutters cutting the car apart. If we didn’t do it that way, the patient would spend 15 minutes not breathing while they gain access to him or her–not a good idea.

    Second, rescue requires special equipment. If they have firefighters do it, they will have two vehicles loaded with rescue equipment, just like the paramedics. Their response time will be the same. You can’t put all the rescue equipment on all the fire trucks. You can’t afford it, it wouldn’t get used, it wouldn’t get taken care of properly and it would cost a whole lot!

    Third, the rescue trucks back up medic units on cardiac arrest and other extreme medical emergencies, often arriving first. The City has no intention of adding new units, so there just won’t be that early Advanced Life Support that the rescue truck provides and the backup they provide.

    Before you go on like this, you should find out what the rescue trucks actually do. If you do, you wouldn’t want them turned over to the Fire Department, where the firefighters are only trained by the City to provide First Responder level medical care–first aid and FRAD.

    • Virginia
      October 10, 2012 3:50 pm

      Rob, the point is that exactly. You’re doing triage while treating. You’re doing so much. You’re going from call to call to call with little breathing room. The firefighters are there waiting, ready to be trained, and they have a lot more free time to answer calls and they have trucks onto which the rescue equipment can be placed, as I’ve learned in my research that their new trucks are bigger and can hold the equipment, and they have the capacity to be trained to do the rescues.

      I believe that if the system works, and it seems to, in most other cities in America, that it can too work here in Pittsburgh.

      No one is saying the EMTs aren’t worthy to do the rescues, simply that maybe they should be freed up to treat medical issues and let the firefighters deal with the rescues.

      Again, I just don’t understand why the EMTs are so against it when it works in other cities.

      • Rob Carr
        October 10, 2012 4:44 pm

        1. There are two Rescue Trucks. They do not have the ability to transport patients. They respond differently from the 13 medic units:
        *They go on accident calls
        *They respond to fires
        *They go on severe medical emergencies
        *They provide extrication from non-accident situations (600 lb patients,
        hoarders, etc.)
        *They are the first to staff the Hazardous Materials Unit
        *When the River Rescue unit is not staffed, they respond for water emergencies
        *They respond to medical emergencies when Medic Units are not available.

        If they give Rescue to the Fire Bureau, they won’t put more medic units on the street. The problems the medic units have stay the same or get worse.

        2. The Fire Bureau is not underworked. Look at all the incidents that have happened in the past years with firefighters stealing from fire stations to support drug habits, fights in bars, etc. This is because, believe it or not, the fire units are overworked. The human brain can only handle so much stress, and they’re responding to babies with fevers and other nonsense when they should be having down time. I’ve been in burning buildings (doing rescue–we were on-scene before the fire fighters and put on the SCBA, fire gear, etc. and went in). Burning buildings are freakin’ scary. I knew all three of the fire fighters that died at the Brycelin fire–one was a good friend from the CISM team. Dumping more work on them because some pencil-pusher says they’re not working enough is dangerous and insane.

        Also, when you do have a fire and need fire fighters, you need a lot of them. Tying them up with Rescue responsibilities (that they never wanted) just means they get short-changed during the times when having a few less fire fighters could be lethal to the fire fighters.

        3. How rescue is approached in Pittsburgh is based on medical care. I didn’t have to explain to Wally that I saw evidence of spinal trauma and they had to find some way to cut the car open without moving it around.

        4. If you’re so worried about the Medic Units being overworked (and they are–the optimum number of calls is 4-6 a day; most Medic Units saw an average of 7-8 a day when I left), then add Medic Units–don’t take away their medical backup and tell them you’re not adding any units to help them out.

        5. I’ve been to other cities, run with other EMS units. I won’t mention the cities in the USA, but EMS there (where it’s a part of the fire departments) often gets treated like the unwanted stepchild of Public Safety. Fire fighters are sent to ambulances as punishment. Spend too long on an ambulance and you can kiss career advancement goodbye. Medical priorities in rescue are ignored.

        Pittsburgh EMS used to have the top (Portland, go bang your head into the wall) prehospital medical system in the country. It’s still pretty good, but the bean-counters have been making cuts to service here and there that make things worse, little by little. The trucks are always old. Equipment breaks more often than it should, and usually when you need it.

        Taking the Rescue units is just one more step in proving they still think like Mayor Pete Flahrety did when he said that EMS wasn’t an essential service.

        And I’m no longer a medic. About 15 years ago, between not getting paid enough, getting hurt, getting shot at (twice), getting a horrid exposure to HIV, being assaulted by patients (the police wouldn’t take a report because medics weren’t a priority like an assault on a fire fighter or police officer would be) and having to testify against my superiors because they were afraid of the fire bureau and would rather allow a female paramedic to be sexually harassed–I quit. I took all my expensive training and years of experience and walked away.

  4. Jim
    October 10, 2012 3:39 pm

    As long as you only need to be rescued in Westmoreland County you’re safe. In the Irwin area, all of the firefighters are unpaid volunteers.

  5. Butcher's Dog
    October 10, 2012 4:30 pm

    This appears to be the kind of crap that gives unions a bad name, especially when spun by management.

    • Erin
      October 10, 2012 4:43 pm

      Exactly. This is not why unions were created. Wonder if firefighters would’ve been able to reach that man during the blizzard?

    • Jesse
      October 10, 2012 5:07 pm

      Unions don’t need to be “given” a bad name. Unions are archaic and inefficient for the purposes of labor as they have turned into hoards of lobbyists – ESPECIALLY in the public sector. Don’t get me started on the Public Employees Federation up here in NY. Disband city of Pittsburgh’s public unions and you’ll find people who will work harder, smarter, and more efficiently – and maybe you can begin to cut into the debt that continues to plague the city.

      • Rob Carr
        October 10, 2012 6:02 pm


        You won’t find people who will work harder. You’ll find political patronage. You’ll find administrators making decisions backed on a lack of knowledge with the people who do know what they’re doing either afraid or unable to get anything done.

        As unions go, FAPP is the next best thing to no union. Because they are so weak, they’ve allowed changes to be made to the City’s prehospital system that have reduced patient care, endangered the lives of the medics and patients and have wasted what was the best prehospital service in the country.

        Things have gotten so bad that this pale imitation of a union has been backed into a corner where they have to stand up and say “No more!” They have neither the power nor the experience, but at least they’re finally trying.

        If I were to guess, I’d say this is the end of Pittsburgh EMS, and the results are going to be ugly for the people of Pittsburgh. But don’t worry, the politicians will tell you how well it works.

        There used to be a Medic 13. As punishment for the medic union standing up to him, Mayor Caliaguri decided to eliminate Medic 13 as punishment. The mayor pointed to statistics that clearly showed eliminating Medic 13 would increase response times dramatically–and he had the Chief claim the stats proved the exact opposite. They promised that they would keep track of response times and, if response times got worse, they would bring back Medic 13.

        6 months later, I asked the Administrative Assistant (I think that was his title, but I forget) at the EMS Base for the stats to see what had happened to the response time. I was told that they had not kept track of the response times and they had no way of recovering the information. I pointed out that the Computer Aided Dispatch had that information, and he said there was no way to extract the data. He looked ashamed when he told me that.

        They also promised to look at the change in response times when Medics 9 and 10 (and 12? I forget) were switched from a swing shift to a 7-3/3-11 shift. A year later, I asked to see the data. At least the Assistant Chief had the decency to look at me like I should know better than to think they’d actually kept data or would allow anyone to access it.

        This is what happens when there IS a union. Wait until there isn’t one.

        When they change whatever they’re going to change, they’ll promise to keep an eye on everything and fix anything that gets worse. That will be the last you ever hear on the topic.

        • Rob Carr
          October 10, 2012 6:05 pm

          By the way, I tried to interest reporters at the PG and news stations in this. One fellow finally explained to me that, if they stood up to the mayor, they wouldn’t be invited to press conferences and announcements and would lose the hand-fed “scoops” that wind up on the news.

        • Jesse
          October 10, 2012 8:04 pm

          How about this… The city of Pittsburgh stops using taxpayer money to fund it’s own EMTs. Instead UPMC and Allegheny General each build their own emergency response teams who have to compete for quality and speedy transport of rescue cases. City of Pittsburgh could save money on wasted and inflated public employee salaries, pensions, and benefits… and the end product for the consumer will be generated through free market competition – which we all know is the best way to produce quality products/services for less….

          • Rob Carr
            October 10, 2012 8:33 pm


            Do you know how much Pittsburgh medics make? What their benefits are? If you use the word “inflated,” it’s obvious you don’t know what you’re talking about. Every contract, the City used to promise “We’ll work toward parity with police and fire in the next contract” while in that contract increasing the distance between EMS and the other two Public Safety Bureaus. Now, I don’t think they even pretend parity is some future goal.

            Or, perhaps more to the point, do you know what happens when large cities privatize their EMS systems? Bankruptcies, fraud, poor patient care, etc. are the standard results. I’ve got a list of cities for you to research if you’re interested.

            A list of the private ambulance services in Allegheny County that were common when I started out in 1984–and how each of them ended–would be instructive. I’m pretty sure they’re all gone, and almost all of the ends were ugly.

            Allegheny General is part of the West Penn Allegheny Health system. Pittsburgh’s rapidly looking at a UPMC monopoly. Without competition, what happens to prices? Patient care?

            Or, if there were competition, the best place to cut corners is on patient care. Only 16.5% of cardiac arrests in the field get resuscitated. Why not just not bother and save money instead? The City loses money on every cardiac arrest they run.

            And standard models of capitalism don’t work in the prehospital setting. How many people, when they’re having a heart attack, will turn down the responding ambulance and ask for a better service? Time is myocardium, but so is proper care.

            You probably have no idea what I mean when I say “Time is myocardium,” do you? Sigh. Try Google.

            I’m trying to think of a polite way to tell you that you don’t know what you’re talking about. Rather than spouting platitudes, how about you do some research on the topic and actually have some facts before you start arguing.

      • Butcher's Dog
        October 10, 2012 8:19 pm

        I’m with Rob Carr’s comments below. People will work “harder” because they’ve basically been reduced to indentured servitude. See “white collar jobs” currently. How many work 40-hour weeks? Any who don’t get overtime? Profit-sharing? I’m thinking not. And if they get a little uppity about how they’re being treated then they’ll get bad ratings and the current supervisor will probably poison any attempted move to another job. On this blog not all that long ago we had a story about a woman who had been with a company for awhile, gave 6-months notice of a vacation need so she could get married, and then was threatened with firing as the date drew nearer if she didn’t withdraw the request. That, to me, is what not having unions does. Some of them may be archaic with outdated rules, but collective bargaining is still the safest way to go, IMHO.

        • Cassie
          October 10, 2012 9:27 pm

          Also, UPMC nickle and dimes everyone and pays their employees bottom rates. That’s why they can afford the things they do. As an LPN there, I’ll be lucky if I ever make 19 an hour (as that is my max pay.) Not to mention that one time a few years ago we all had to take a 6 month delay in a pay raise because there ‘weren’t enough funds to give raises.’

          What makes anyone think that adding more services to UPMC will help anyone? Especially the employees who truly do make a difference.

          And I totally got your reference to time is myocardium.

  6. steelertom
    October 10, 2012 5:12 pm

    My father would kill me for this, but the vast majority of unions have out lived their usefullness.
    As someone who works as compliance inspecting you would not believe what I’ve seen unions and union members pull, especially when doing something neglectfully and willfully. Rob, you arguements hold no water, Let me put it to you this way,…. Whatever happened to TEAMWORK?

    • Rob Carr
      October 10, 2012 5:43 pm


      How does teamwork solve the lack of a Rescue Truck during a cardiac arrest? A first responder or EMT can’t intubate, start an IV, administer drugs, read an EKG or do the consult with the medical command physician.

      How does teamwork solve a firefighter having no idea what the paramedic in the vehicle is doing? Asking what the paramedic needs takes time away from the rescue and the patient.

      Have you ever used the Jaws of Life? Do you know how to start an IV, let alone in the dark upside down? What’s the highest priority in BTLS? How do you administer fluid and meds to an infant in cardiac arrest with poor venous access? What’s the difference between COPD and asthma and a tension pneumothorax? What’s the difference between a response to a tanker of methyl isocyanate and ethyl isocyanate? (I didn’t even have to look that last one up.)

      Emergency medicine and advanced rescue techniques take knowledge and experience. You can’t just say “We’ll use teamwork!” and have everything solved magically.

      I’ve actually done the work. I know what’s needed. You say I’m wrong, but don’t say where. How does teamwork answer these problems?

      • steelertom
        October 11, 2012 3:57 am

        You are picking an arguement with the wrong person, what do I know? a lot more than you think! I was the instructor teaching you advanced CPR & BLS skills. You probably learned how to spell Triage from one of my classes, Emergency medicine is your job rescuing is a firefighter’s job, I’ve been around both careers long enough to recognize the difference. Both are important that one must work hand in hand with the other..Oh and I’ve done all the above as an UNPAID volunteer ! You lash out at me because I spoke my mind, your right to do so. I served 21 years to ensure you have that right, but what sickens me is the way you try to justify and defend your position.. You cannot prove to me that you words are not politically motivated. If it came to a choice of being “rescued’ by you or a pigeon, I’d take the Latter. You Impress me not

        • Rob Carr
          October 11, 2012 6:34 am


          Not trying to pick a fight. I can’t be bothered to do that.

          I held CPR and First Aid Instructor certification at the Red Cross while a volunteer; I picked up the American Heart Association CPR instructor later.

          I was a state certified Paramedic Instructor, teaching for the Center for Emergency Medicine, CCAC, Washington County’s program and Butler’s program on a few occasions through the CEM. I was also an Advanced Cardiac Life Support instructor (I loved teaching cardiac surgeons how to restart hearts), Basic Trauma Life Support instructor, and Pediatric Advanced Life Support instructor. At CEM, I taught both BLS and ALS skills to EMT and paramedic students (and one First Responder class); I tended to focus on advanced airway management techniques, care for possible spinal injury patients and behavioral emergencies, but I taught most BLS and ALS modules at one time or another. (Note: I went through the training to be an instructor in the program that was competing for a time with BTLS; I forget the name of that program. I never taught a class for it, though.)

          I was an instructor for Allegheny County’s Hazardous Materials team, helping out with the course but focusing on fundamentals of chemistry as well as radiological and biological emergency response. When I taught those last two, people thought the idea of responding to an anthrax spill was a joke. Two months ago, at a Pittsburgh fire house, I found a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy of one of my daisy-wheel-printed handouts in someone’s Hazmat binder. Apparently another instructor is still using my handout.

          I assisted in teaching Basic Rescue. The young fire fighters thought I was absurd because I insisted they should be using SCBA (the module I helped with) during both fire suppression and overhaul. Back then, “real” fire fighters were “smoke eaters” who didn’t need this “mamby-pamby” technology.

          As a hobby, I taught rope climbing and rappelling to beginners. We didn’t use store-bought harnesses; we made them out of webbing. I picked the hobby up through my City training in high-angle rescue.

          Assuming you’re still active and based on the timeline, I may have been one of YOUR instructors but it couldn’t have been the other way around.

          Rescue is a paramedic job and has been in Pittsburgh since before I was hired. The Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire didn’t want to be bothered with it. They’d tease me about it when I was teaching them for First Responder (I was never one of the permanent instructors at Pittsburgh EMS’s Training Acadamy, but I was detailed numerous times and bid on overtime there). They didn’t understand why we’d treat patients during rescue and I had to explain to them that medical care was essential in preventing rescue from turning into body recovery. They only wanted to fight fires. The only reason we got them to agree to join us on the City’s Hazmat team was because there was fire suppression involved.

          I’m grateful you were a volunteer. But at 7 calls a day average (the true average was higher than that), 5 days a week, 50 weeks a year, I ran well over 18,000 calls, and that’s not including overtime. That also doesn’t include my volunteer time with my suburban service where I started out. At 21 years, you still haven’t seen everything I saw in over 10 years. I doubt it’s even close.

          And, for the record, Mrs. Brodo taught me how to spell “triage” in grade school. You probably weren’t born yet. Now, I didn’t teach you how to spell “triage” if you were in one of my intro classes. In my classes, I expected adults to know basic vocabulary.

          I don’t care if I impress you or not. You’re “entitled to your opinion,” but that opinion is still not based on facts.

          • ali
            October 11, 2012 6:29 pm

            Go Robb! I’ve learned a lot from your comments here, and appreciate the way you have presented them, while not without strong opinions, with intelligence and respect. I think some of the responses you’ve received in return cannot boast the same. Regardless, I think Ginny’s initial argument sounded quite reasonable, but with a little more information (or a lot) – and as she admitted – the situation becomes both more complicated and complex. An all- around thanks for the work you did in your previous rescue career.

            And no, Jesse, free-market competition in services does not produce the best results. Amazingly, despite all the evidence to the contrary, people keep spouting this bullshit.

  7. Dave
    October 10, 2012 5:34 pm

    Well, first it would be helpful if you actually knew about the topic you decide to toss your opinion into. Let me attempt to offer you some education. While speed in getting “rescued” is one factor toward survival, let’s look at other factors. First please don’t confuse being trapped in an elevator as bring rescued! Yes we would all like to get out quickly, but really being confined in a stuck elevator is an unpleasant inconvenience! The people who currently perform this task are trained in the safe way to extricate the people while doing no damage to the equipment. I don’t think its a good idea to get their fast and chop the door down in the name of speed, when there was no reason for causing thousands of dollars of damage just because you got their first and needed to do something fast. You stated the firemen have so much down time. Did you ever ask yourself why that is? Let’s say the city hires as many Paramedics as firefighters. The city has roughly 700 firefighters and only about 160 Paramedics. So if you do the math and the city hires another 500 medics, there would be more ambulances staffed than fire vehicles. That response time you speak of would be less for the medics to arrive. Again with the math thing there are 4 firefighters per fire unit and only 2 medics per unit, so if the manpower were equal the medics could put twice as many units on the streets as fire units and cut that time in half! Ok now while we are still on math let’s talk about the fire calls. There are only about 400 per year that’s just a little over 1 per day. The medics run over 60,000 calls per year, that’s about 150 per day. Would it not make more sense instead of having all those firefighters with down time to reverse the resource numbers? I mean really if you need an ambulance why would you want a fire truck to get there fast if by reversing the numbers and applying your logic, “its not about the jobs, its about YOUR safety” that would get it done. Oh and a little more math, Firefighters make more in wages and benefits that medics so that would also save $Money$. Now back to the fast rescue. If I get to you fast and treat you improperly and cause more injury or death, did YOU benefit? NO! Being stuck someplace and not injured is not a rescue. Let me give you this example. You are walking along Grandview Avenue and bam! You fall over the hill. Now there you are laying in agony and pain! Here comes your fireman to rescue you. They arrive and can’t treat you over the hillside. They can’t offer you life saving drugs or even pain control until you are rescued and handed off to the paramedics. WHY would you NOT want a Paramedic to arrive at your side quickly, safely, and assess your injuries, properly treat those injuries, and carefully with skill and medical concern package and remove you while rendering care? Last point, if a building falls, you might want a USAR team and there are medics and firefighters on that team. It’s a regional team not a City asset. Lesson learned from major incidents in history. If the building falls or other incidents make sure it’s done falling before you run in to save anyone. It does no good to anyone, including the entrapped victims if the first people run in “fast” because they were first, and then add to the victims because the building was not done falling. Real building collapses and all other types of technical rescue are done with training geared toward safe methodical techniques, focused on rescuing the victim while NOT adding to the victim’s injuries or adding additional victims in the form of rescuers. This is not about who does what job, this is about doing the best job. Try getting your information from sources other than the Pittsburgh Pravda Gazette directly from the Mayors office.

  8. steve
    October 10, 2012 6:28 pm

    Rescue. “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

    • Rob Carr
      October 10, 2012 6:44 pm


      I was a paramedic for over 11 years, the vast majority with the City. I was well-trained in Rescue and a member of the Hazmat team. Dave was there before I got there and still is there, and has worked the Rescue Truck to the point I think he bleeds hydraulic fluid.

      We know rescue. I’m not sure how many others in this thread can make that statement.

      I just remembered crawling around in the mud in a trench deeper than I was tall at night during trench rescue training. It was hard work but fun. Technically, trench rescue is rarely “rescue.” It’s mostly body recovery.

      Side note: It was a City medic unit, rescue truck and supervisor that resuscitated a friend of mine who was down for about 40 minutes. That was over 5 years ago, I believe, and he’s still alive and driving and sending me Farmville requests on Facebook. Those are the only Farmville requests I don’t mind. Thanks, guys.

      • steve
        October 10, 2012 6:52 pm

        My comment was not intended to anyone in particular. It is made in reference to one of my favorite characters from the movie “The Princess Bride”


        The point is, that once everyone is speaking about the same definition of rescue, then we can have an intelligent conversation. For the most part people seem to be talking over one another.

        Thanks for helping us understand.

        I really don’t have anything more substantial to contribute to the discussion.

        • Rob Carr
          October 10, 2012 8:16 pm


          I’m sorry I skipped the humor. I knew the quote but “drove on past it.”

          This topic brings up things I’m better off not thinking about. You know how at the end of “The Men in Black,” Kay wants to be neuralized? I can understand that.

  9. Bojack
    October 10, 2012 8:19 pm

    Apparently “gets there first” doesn’t apply to tow trucks in the city either.

    Luv to know the kickback deals in place with McGann & Chester!

    Any comment Chief Harper?

    • Rob Carr
      October 10, 2012 8:42 pm

      Do you remember what it was like before they went with the system of either McGann and Chester or an AAA truck? The accidents caused by tow trucks racing to the scene to be there “first?” The “fly-by-night” tow truck operators that would scam accident victims? The fights that would erupt at the scene between drivers from different (and in one case, the same) tow truck company?

      I never saw an officer take a kickback from the tow truck operators back when it was “whoever showed up,” but some of the other cops seemed to think it was going on… I don’t know on that one.

      (For what it’s worth, the tow truck drivers did slow down a bit after the Press truck went into the bridge abutment on Second Avenue and erupted in flames. That settled everyone down for a couple weeks after that trucker died.)

  10. don
    October 11, 2012 7:55 am

    Unions. Depressing growth and avoiding logic in Pittsburgh, PA and parts of the Nation for decades. I’m glad I now live in a right to work State.

    • Butcher's Dog
      October 11, 2012 10:53 am

      Or, as a friend of mine in South Carolina who was originally from Ohio calls it, a right to get fired state. Probably just coincidence that SC ranks near the bottom of all 50 states in both income and student performance.

  11. bucdaddy
    October 11, 2012 1:31 pm

    “But if I’m stuck in an elevator I do not give a rat’s ass if it is a paramedic or a firefighter who comes to my aid. I care that they get there fast.”

    Just sticking my head in here to say that I’d happily be stuck with you in an elevator, if that helps.

    Well, till one of us has to pee, I guess. Shouldn’t elevators have drains in the floor, just in case?

    *ducks out*

  12. BurghGirl@Heart
    October 11, 2012 4:14 pm

    I grew up in Pittsburgh and now live in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and our fire fighters are also paramedics. They are required to be. If wether you are trapped in a car after an MVA or if I’m calling from my office for EMS to transport a patient, the fire department shows up, firetrucks and all. And I must say that their response time has always been great when I needed them to transport a patient. Why is this even an issue in Pittsburgh? If cities the size of Dallas and Fort Worth can make this work without 17 minute response times then so can the city of Pittsburgh.

  13. heather
    October 12, 2012 2:40 pm

    I just moved back to the city and have seen a firetruck twice in the last month at my neighbor’s houses. I know once an elderly neighbor had fallen in his back yard and they were tending to him. I was wondering why they had sent the big huge fire trucks out both times to treat these personal injury type calls (not sure how these differ from a rescue) when an amulance with paramedics would probably make more sense. The truck was here a good 10-12 mins before the paramedics showed up….i know the station is just down the street so that probably explains it. Looks like there are too few paramedics around, but I guess it’s good to know that at least in my neighborhood someone responds pretty quickly.

  14. Dean J
    October 15, 2012 11:33 am

    The poster seems verrrry confused.

    Firefighters are usually additionally certified as first responders; when dispatch sends both firefighters and medics to a medical call, the first one on scene starts helping, and the more skilled one on scene continues helping.

    When they say “rescue”, they don’t mean “trapped in an elevator”; they mean “kid falls down a well” or “car driven over a cliff sitting on a tree halfway down”. They’re things that are specifically trained for, and not actually all that straightforward.

    Most specifically, if you have to have someone rappel down a hillside to cut you out of your car, and you’re not in danger unless they screw it up, you very, very much want the person who trained for that job, and not the person who’s in a hurry/an adrenaline junkie.